Execution of the top 10 ‘ideas’ contributed by employees of the Indian Railways is going to be a challenge given that little thought has gone into plus and minus points of each idea, say rail-fans.

A list of ideas were sought from employees a few months ago that is to culminate in a Vikas Shivir or brainstorming sessions in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 25-27.

Dheeraj Sanghi, Founder, Indian Railways Fan Club (IRFCA) and a Professor of Computer Science based in New Delhi, says: “I have spoken to many railwaymen and they tell me that doing anything at busy railway stations to attract more crowds will only increase the chaos. Most busy stations also have traffic chaos around them. That is one reason why they haven't been able to do anything at New Delhi Railway Station.”

On the idea of Indian Railways branching out into rail banking, courier, telecom, hospitality and e-commerce, there is a feeling that IR is trying to do everything which is not their core competence of transporting passengers and freight.

“There is no mention of how to enhance punctuality of trains. Given the slack time that many trains enjoy, the flawed definition of punctuality in the IR actually does them more harm. It is being tolerated as they are a monopoly,” says Sandeep Modak from Mughalsarai. "In addition, there is no mechanism for people, especially those in unreserved coaches, to communicate with the driver/ guard in case of an emergency and have no alternative but to pull the alarm chain.”

Lack of actionable items in the list of ideas seems to be the biggest grouse of rail-fans.

“I am not sure of the revenue generation potential of this, given the fact that the smartphone savvy populace of the day might not be interested in the station TV advertisements. Nevertheless, private parties might be roped in for programmes on a trial basis,” says Hyderabad-based technology professional Praveen Kumar.

Use of statements such as ‘increase speeds, introduce dynamic performance appraisal system, use smart cards for ticketing’ seem to be vague, they say. Increasing speed is not an actionable item. We all want higher speeds. The idea would be "how to increase speed, adding that the 6th Pay Commission had suggested dynamic appraisal 10 years ago, and all departments of the government are struggling to find a way to do it. So don't just repeat what has been said many times, but say what kind of appraisal system may actually work,” Sanghi says.

“Introduction of the dynamic appraisal system would need a buy-in from the powerful trade unions,” observes Praveen.

Quality of food available at railway stations is a sensitive topic and the idea to serve only dry food at stations seems to have been rejected.

“Provision of packaged dry food in trains might not work out - the travelling public would look to app-based providers such as TravelKhana to get wet food,” says Praveen.

“If airlines can serve meals,why not Railways. If cleanliness is an issue, solve that, do not avoid the problem,” Sanghi sums up.

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